SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- A Canadian man charged with killing a former American Indian Movement member in 1975 acknowledged on an audiotape that he was with her moments before she was shot and left for dead in a ravine, according to a transcript.
John Graham is charged with first-degree murder in the kidnapping and slaying of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, who prosecutors say was killed because movement leaders suspected she was a government informant. Prosecutors say Graham shot her in the back of the head as she begged for her life.
Graham, a former movement member who remains free on bond in Canada, has denied killing Aquash. Former member Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted of murder last month in Aquash's death, and is to be sentenced to life in prison next month.
The 2001 conversation on the tape was arranged by a senior movement leader, according to people familiar with the tape who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They said the interview was intended to provide Graham an opportunity to present an explanation for his whereabouts during the final moments of Aquash's life.
Prosecutors would not comment on the tape. During a telephone interview last week, Graham also refused to discuss it.
"If they have me on tape saying all this stuff, bring it on. I'm going to keep my comments to the courts," said Graham, who was due in court today for a hearing involving his extradition.
Paul DeMain of Hayward, Wis., an Indian journalist who has researched Aquash's death and also has the transcript, said the tape contains important details about the slaying.
"It's Graham in his own voice qualifying certain facts about the last hours and literally minutes of Anna Mae's life," said DeMain, who did not conduct the interview. "He's not admitting to a lot of things other than being there. But he's qualifying who's driving, when they went certain places."
Aquash was among the Indian militants who occupied the village of Wounded Knee for 71 days in 1973 -- a standoff that became a symbol of 1970s Indian conflicts.
Her slaying occurred amid a series of violent clashes in the 1970s between federal agents and American Indian Movement leaders, who were fighting for treaty rights and self-determination for Indians.
Authorities said they only recently found enough evidence to prosecute the case. A break came when the former common-law wife of onetime movement leader Dennis Banks came forward.
The tape focuses on a Denver-to-South Dakota trip in 1975 that included Aquash, Graham, Looking Cloud, and fellow movement member Theda Clarke.
Witnesses at Looking Cloud's trial testified that Looking Cloud and Graham walked Aquash to the edge of a ravine in South Dakota's Badlands, where Graham allegedly shot her.
On the tape, Graham places himself on the trip from Denver and to the spot where she was killed, according to the transcript.
He does not directly acknowledge killing Aquash, but he never said Looking Cloud killed her either, according to the transcript.
At Looking Cloud's trial, John Trudell, the movement's chairman at the time, testified that he believes Graham, Looking Cloud, and Clarke were ordered to kill Aquash during a stop at the home of movement member Bill Means.
On the tape transcript, Graham said he was there.
"I don't remember going into [Means's] house. I stayed in the car [with Aquash], I know that. Theda went in. And I don't know if Arlo went in or not, I can't really remember that too clear," he said.
Asked whether Clarke took over the driving when they left Means's house for Wanblee, where Aquash was killed, Graham said: "Yeah. I do remember that. Theda did some driving. Theda drove from Bill Means's [place]."
Clarke has not been charged in the case. She is in her 80s and lives in a nursing home in Nebraska.